The Renewal of the Black-Jewish Alliance

By Michael Rosenzweig

The horrific and deeply disturbing violence at the Capitol last week obscured a profoundly important moment — the election of Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the United States Senate from the State of Georgia. At the same time, the insurrection underscored for me, and I suspect many others, the importance of electing public officials of character and integrity, who bring to their offices the values our nation has always cherished.

We have known for some time that Donald Trump and those who support his deeply divisive and dangerous behavior do not embrace those values, and the violence at the Capitol, incited by Trump himself, is a painful reminder of that reality. Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock embody those values, campaigned on those values, and will imbue their service as senators with those values. That is one reason we should see their election, however obscured by the horrifying events of January 6, as reason for hope, reason to believe that what happened that day does not define us.

Like so many who worked hard for Ossoff and Warnock, I rejoice in their election and see it as a personal victory. As a Georgia Democrat and national board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which endorsed and worked tirelessly to elect them, I am inspired to see my state send two Democrats to the Senate. For those of us who worked so hard for Ossoff and Warnock, their election reminds each of us that we can make a difference.

Beyond that, however, the election of Ossoff and Warnock represents an enormously important moment for Georgia and our country, one we should recognize and celebrate for what it is — a moment that reverberates with profound historical and symbolic significance.

I am inspired by the fact that, in addition to both being Democrats, both being men of character and integrity, one of my new Senators is Black and the other is Jewish.

In many ways, their election marks the culmination and, more importantly, the robust revival and continuation of the historically strong relationship between the Black and Jewish communities in Georgia, reminding us of our mutual embrace of our shared legacies. These two communities, with their shared experiences suffering and fighting against the pernicious bigotry of racism and antisemitism, locked arms in this election and together achieved this milestone. Just as Jews and Blacks together fought the battles of the civil rights movement, Ossoff and Warnock effectively ran as a ticket, together defending themselves and one another against the hateful racist and antisemitic attacks their candidacies triggered.

One could be forgiven for believing that Ossoff and Warnock were destined for this moment. Ossoff’s first political experience was as an intern for civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who became Ossoff’s mentor and endorsed him early on. Warnock is senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. Warnock was Lewis’s pastor and presided at his funeral. And the truth is that each needed the other in order to achieve their historic victories.

There was something almost poetic about Ossoff’s defense of Warnock against scurrilous charges that he is antisemitic and anti-Israel and Warnock’s assurances to the Black community that this young Jewish candidate deserved their support, that he shared their values and would fight for them in the Senate.

Soon, the 117th Congress will vote to restore the Voting Rights Act, now known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. As a Jewish American and as a Georgian, it is deeply gratifying to see two sons of the south, a Jewish man and a Black man, rising as senators from the State of Georgia to announce their affirmation of the precious right to vote, for which so many have fought so hard, enshrined in legislation named in memory of that great Georgian, Rep. John Lewis.

After his victory, Warnock remarked that he imagined Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, friends and allies who worked closely together in the civil rights movement, smiling down on this moment. I can imagine that as well, and today I am proud of Georgia and proud to be a Georgian.

Michael Rosenzweig is a board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and a head of the JDCA Georgia chapter.

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